Above: This was the result the last time Rio Hondo Prep reached the finals back in 2009 on a soaking Saturday night. The Kares look to make new finals memories, but first must avenge a 2010 quarterfinal loss to Boron. Rio Hondo Prep so far has taken care of some serious business on the road there.
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
Defense? That’s been a figment of someone’s imagination in the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs.
Of the eight games played by the four remaining teams, only one, Desert Christian’s 14-7 win over top-seeded Bishop last Friday, has been a low-scoring affair.
That’s not to say there has not been spectacular defense. Of those eight games, four victories have been by shutout. Chief among those defensive efforts have been those by Rio Hondo Prep, which outscored its first two playoff opponents 116-0.
“We’re a really good defensive team,” Kares coach Ken Drain said. “We haven’t given up too many points in league (play), either.”
The Kares have had six shutouts this season en route to an 11-1 record. Two of their Prep League wins were shutouts.
All of which makes for an interesting situation in Friday night’s semifinal game.
The Kares play Boron (10-2) for the third consecutive year in the playoffs. The teams met earlier this season in a nonleague game, with Rio Hondo earning a last-second, 40-38 victory.
“I really expect a lot more defense than last time,” Drain said. “The first time we played, we were feeling each other out. I think when you get to the playoffs everything evens up. You’ve studied so much film. You know exactly what they’re going to do. That gives good defenses an advantage.
“I hope we score a lot of points. I could be wrong. Heck, I hope we score 50.”
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That first meeting, in the third game of the season, was strange. The Kares arrived in the high desert town to find an electrical storm had knocked out the town’s electricity and would not be restored until late that September night. Several Rio Hondo players had commitments to coach in the Kares’ Youth League the following day, so another trip 100 miles away was out of the question.
“We really could not go up,” Drain recalled. “They agreed to come down here.”
The game had a playoff feel. The score changed hands four times in the game’s final five minutes, with Rio Hondo winning on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Colby Rivera to Jake Holguin with seven seconds to play.
Both teams easily moved the ball in a hard-hitting game. The Kares fumbled the ball away four times. Bobcats quarterback Austyn Fink threw four interceptions.
“I don’t think too much has changed,” Drain said of the teams between that meeting and Friday’s game. “I think we’re both better. I really expect a lot more defense than last time.”
He cited last year’s game, when Boron defeated Rio Hondo, 36-28, in the regular season. When the teams later met in the quarterfinals, the Bobcats won 14-6.
“I kind of expect more of the same thing,” Drain said. “Both teams are really geared up for that and we’ll see how it goes. We have to figure out a way to score and win this thing. I think we’re a really good offensive team as long as (Rivera) is on his passing game, because he can be tough to stop. But Boron puts up a lot pressure.”
Rio Hondo is getting accustomed to making the trip to the northern edge of Edwards Air Force Base at this time of year. The schools have met in the quarterfinals the last two years and have split the two games.
“It’s the luck of the draw I guess,” Drain said of another long trip. “I have no idea why. CIF doesn’t like us, I guess. But you have to go play everywhere. I just hope the temperature stays above 30 degrees.”
Rio Hondo is the second seed and Boron is seeded third. The Bobcats’ only other loss was to Knight, 37-26, in the season opener. The Kares’ lone loss was to San Diego’s Francis Parker, 26-14, also in the season opener.
Salesian and Desert Christian will meet in the other semifinal.
A coin flip will determine who will host the Dec. 10 championship game.